Buying Time

I came across an article today that talks about how much happier people can be if they use their money to buy time instead of things. In other words, pay other people to do things you don’t want to do yourself, which frees up your time to do the things you’d rather do. I’d never really thought about this in those terms, but I can definitely see the appeal, and I think it’s something I’ve started to do more and more often.

Take home construction projects. For the first long while at my house, I focused on trying to do these projects myself. My basic thought was that if I could do them alone or with help, then I should do them. After all, think of the money I was saving! Except as time went on, I realized that by doing the projects myself, I was making life miserable for me. I was way too busy in the fall, I was stressed about doing things the wrong way, and I was ending up with results which weren’t as good as they could have been if I paid to have the job done.

This isn’t to say this is always ideal. There are certainly cases where you wish you could pay someone else to do something, but you just can’t afford it. If you have to choose between renovating your house on your own, or not renovating it at all, it comes down to a question of how badly you want it renovated. For me, this article simply brought into focus the concept that time is something you can pay for as well.

All of us make a certain amount of money. It’s different for everyone, but it’s often a constant for each individual case. You make $40,000/year, or $30,000, or $70,000. Whatever it is, that’s your entire budget. Up until now, I’ve thought about what I can buy with that money in terms of experiences or things. I can buy stuff like vacations or trips to the movies or piano lessons, or I can buy stuff like televisions or books or video games. But now I recognize I can also buy time. Pay other people to do things I don’t really want to do. But even writing that statement makes me cringe. There’s this deep-seated idea that if I can do something on my own, I should.

I think I need to get past that. Not that I want to start paying my way out of chores left and right, but how we choose to allot the funds available to us is up to us. I have a limited amount of time and money. If I spend one resource to free up another, that’s a perfectly fine choice to make. If, for example, it would cost me $50/week to have someone come clean the house, that’s $2,600/year. That seems like a lot of money, but I could choose to cut out a renovation project, and suddenly I can afford the house cleaning. But maybe that’s out of my price range. What if I had someone come once a month to clean the house at that rate? Now we’re down to $600. That’s how much I saved when I cut out satellite television. So it becomes a choice: satellite TV or monthly house cleaning.

It all comes down to how we value our time and money. I think I need to get over the knee-jerk response of “we can do that ourselves” to see if there are other areas where I’d prefer more time over more money. Just food for thought this Thursday . . .

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